There's nothing quite like a summer evening at a good old-fashioned county fair, like the one this week in Bedford.
Friday night features the weekly draw of stock car racing at the Bedford Speedway. But In addition to the fun food, carnival rides and displays, the fair brings back to life a unique brand of "farm sports."
The Bedford County Fair celebrates the culture of agriculture in Central Pennsylvania. The state's largest industry, farming is, like most businesses, trying to power through the struggling economy. The fair is a chance to put the stress on the back burner and celebrate the county's heritage, with competitions more likely to be found in a corn field than on a football field.
Jeff Foxworthy might have a field day at the fair, but that's what makes it so much fun. The fair is a forum for testing the power of your tractor John Deere goes grill to grill against International Harvester and others in a grandstand tractor pull. It's like watching two heavyweights do battle for a boxing belt with rugged tires digging into the rain-packed dirt.
The 4-by-4 truck pull tests the strength and power of the pick-up in classic Ford vs. Chevy showdowns.
The demolition derby events are always a fan favorite. Drivers try to out-maneuver each other in the confines of the race track infield. Smashmouth takes on a whole new meaning in this "sport" as cars, trucks and even mini-vans are destroyed before your very eyes.
Every day brings a new competition of one kind or another. There are even smackdowns for vegetables, maple products, flowers and Christmas trees, with winners taking home blue ribbons and bragging rights.
County fairs are like game days for area 4-H clubs, which shine while showing the products of their year-round work, from raising livestock to air pistol and rifle contests.
Fans can sit in the grandstand every night to enjoy the marquis shows: tractor pulls, 'Bullride Mania,' auto racing and demo derbies. It's family-friendly summertime fun with an historic undertone.
But for those who work on farms every day, it's even more. It's a celebration of their heritage and their hard work, a chance to showcase the fruits of their labor, like local apples and peaches, Holsteins and hogs.
Celebrating the 136th edition of the Bedford County Fair, the Holbert family, who runs the week-long event, works year-round to provide this special showcase for an under-celebrated sector of our state's workforce. The Fair's series of competitions may not earn a spot on the sports pages, but they should win a place in the hearts of all of us.
The farm sports give guests a glimpse at what goes into the day-to-day work that puts food on our tables and roofs over our heads.
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Kellie@BedfordCountyChamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.